letter to/from India

1999.05.16 09:08
Re: Piranesi
Not exactly sure what it is that I'm supposed to look at. I saw an image of one of Piranesi's prisons, but that is the only connection to Piranesi I found.
I too am guilty of long silence, re: promenade architecturale. I continually mean to finish the "letter to India", but never get around to it. I did look to see where I left off and the next portion will point out that right at the center/mid-point of Villa Savoye, where the ramp reaches the first floor, is where the ramp moves from inside to outside. This transition is significant in that it is an integral part of the whole promenade. Without the halfway :: limbo :: inside/outside the promenade [formula] would be incomplete.
I am jumping way a head, but, since you recently mentioned Terragni, the Danteum too follows the same promenade architecturale formula, and it is through the Danteum that the promenade architecturale can be said to represent a transcendence from profane to sacred. Comparing the Danteum with the Villa Savoye--the forest is the grid of pilotis; the inferno is the ground floor complete with sink (profane/plumbing); purgatory is the halfway :: limbo :: inside/outside; paradiso is the solarium.

1999.05.17 01:05
Re: Piranesi
The point about Piranesi is exactly that one image, because it morphs into the 'root' diagramme for my building. Prisons = Societies of Control, piranesi-bantham-foucault-deleuze all strike at the same stratum in Western Modernity, the point at which the Soul is confined and 'reformed'. I don't know if I can specify this without loss of intuition, it is too early . . . advise.
The middle room is crucial to the entire composition of Villa Savoye, the place where the ramp turns to the outside is the real chamber of arrival, the place you would be received. The promenade bifurcates here: you may enter the house or continue with the promenade.
I read Schumacher's book on Danteum, and a friend of mine wrote a thesis on Danteum. Could send you a copy if you want. Danteum is of course the classical promenade, or a passage. I find it really explodes if you combine it's internal structure (Dante's allegory) with Christian Norberg-Schulz's the Genius Loci of Rome (published in Architectural Design in the late 70s or the early 80s), where he analyses the landforms surrounding Rome and the evolution of public buildings. . . [I am sure you know the writing].
That Le Corbu curated an exhibition on Terragni is significant too.

1999.05.16 17:32
Re: Piranesi
I did not know that Le Corbusier curated an exhibit on Terragni. I am only aware that the Villa Savoye dates 1929 and the Danteum dates 1938. In terms of the promenade bifurcating, take note of the ramp at Le Corbusier's Palais des Congrès, it too bifurcates, but the important issue (for me at least) is the transition from inside to outside, and, of course, the continual rising which is found in (so far) the Villa Savoye, the Danteum, and the Palais des Congrès.

1999.05.16 17:37
Re: Piranesi
As to Piranesi's prison morphing into the root of your building, the similarity I do find is that both your display and Piranesi's etching "torture" perception. I mean this as both a positive and a negative criticism.

1999.05.17 03:39
Re: Piranesi
Can you elaborate?

1999.05.16 18:41
Re: Piranesi
Elaborate? Sure.
I see Piranesi's prisons not so much as real places, real prisons, but as images specially designed to torture our (perspectival) perception, hence the prison/torture-chamber imagery. In trying to figure out the space(s) the Carceri depict, the viewer executes his or her own (perceptive) torture. The Piranesi prisons are a purposeful visual conundrum that inflict a pain to our visual sense.
In my first waiting for your shockwave file to download, and then trying to figure out the point you were making was a small torture for me. I doubt that was your intention, but the connection is poignant nonetheless, and perhaps someday you might put together a (shockwave) display that is actually designed to "torture".

1999.05.17 03:39
Re: Piranesi
Don't know if there is any such thing as a 'real' place, Lacan sorted that out for us: there is the Order of the symbolic, and of imaginary. The real may only be inferred. The torture is real, the etchings just give it a shape, a place by which the eye (or the 'I') could pour in. Representation of despair, in the style of Piranesi was used in the enlightenment, quite effectively. Especially in the colonies. And that is a point to note.
The visual torture is intended. If you look at the later images and the plan. (The only problem in building these things is, that the perspective must coincide with the structure, and therefore one cannot become as explosive as Piranesi.) I suppose you see the connection between Terragni and Piranesi. The Danteum could not take shape without Piranesi (and to a lesser extent, the Forum Romanum).
Le Corbusier met Terragni at sea, during the Athens CIAM. By then Terragni was faithfully reproducing many of Le Corbusier's ideas. The Exhibition was in the fifties sometime, only the second (and last) exhibit curated by Le Corbusier [the first was on Gaudi, with a book].

1999.05.17 19:44
Re: Piranesi
I went through Tafuri's first chapter in The Sphere . . . and his Theories . . ., and Piranesi, it seems, was after the perspective as a symbolic form. A kind of meta-language. I think you would agree there, in spite of your disagreements with Tafuri.
It seems to me, also, that the architect's task is to build meta-languages, represented as drawings, CAD, or buildings (the representation bearer doesn't really matter). As a matter of fact, this would be a good way of separating architecture from building (meta- from language). It does make architecture a second-order (some would prefer to call it a 'higher') practice, exegetical, just as Piranesi's prisons is included in the Societies of Control project: as an exegesis.

1999.05.17 12:14
Re: Piranesi
As far as his interpretation of Piranesi's Ichnographia of the Campo Marzio, Tafuri is just plain wrong. No one should agree with what Tafuri says about the Campo Marzio unless they like to be misguided and mistaken. I feel very strongly about this because I have proof positive that what Tafuri says about the Campo Marzio has already led various (and even prominent) architects astray. I believe it is wrong to perpetuate incorrectness. My "disagreement" with Tafuri stems only from my desire and quest to see things correctly.
What's even worse in the Tafuri/Campo Marzio case is that practically the whole rest of Sphere and the Labyrinth is based on what he says in the beginning. Since what he says in the beginning is wrong, it seems logical that what follows is likely to be wrong as well.
I know for certain that at this point no one else alive today (or perhaps even ever) has studied Piranesi's Campo Marzio as much as I have, with the exception of Piranesi himself.
[Note: The above was written three days after making the discovery of the Ichnographia of the Campo Marzio existing in two separate printed states.]

1999.05.30 10:18
Re: architectural theory
I haven't been ignoring your past few emails, in fact I'm trying to compose an end to the 'letter to India' regarding the promenade architecturale. And I am now also thinking about 'Piranesi and the torture of two-dimensional space' as a topic I want to investigate.

1999.06.22 00:26
...I was looking at your site today. Will you describe your perception of architecture as tragic? (I mean it in the classical Greek sense, of course).

1999.06.21 19:36
I see the point along the promenade architecturale [in Le Corbusier's Villa Savoye and his Palais des Congrès] where there is both outside and inside as precisely the same as Terragni's representation of Purgatory within the Danteum--the room that manifests equal measures of inside and outside. When I was a child in Catholic school, Purgatory was often described as 'limbo'--essentially being there and not there at the same time. The notion of limbo basically differs, however, from the notion of purgation. Purgatory gets its name because that is where purging (of the profane from the sacred) occurs. This notion of separation also relates directly to the notion bifurcation that you related to the heart of the Villa Savoye.
The notion of limbo also directly describes the inside/outside ramp situation of the Palais des Congrès--not only is the ramp 'suspended' (in limbo) outside the main building block, moreover, half way up the ramp, it changes from an interior ramp to an exterior ramp.
...we will find ourselves on the roof, in the solarium, in Paradiso, within 'the sacred' as our present... ...comes to an end.
Being now in limbo (at the half-way point), however, we have the opportunity to venture/explore within both the profane and sacred realms.

1999.06.26 08:02
Re: monadology
Explain the 'limbo' part a little, if you can?

1999.06.26 05:33
Limbo is another name that Catholic teaching gives to purgatory.
In Catholic theology, purgatory is where some souls go before they are allowed to enter heaven--the souls there do not deserve hell/inferno, but they don't exactly deserve heaven/paradiso yet either, hence they are in limbo.
Some other dictionary definitions:
...the souls of unbaptized infants are in limbo
a place or state of restraint or confinement
a place or state of neglect or oblivion
an intermediate or transitional place or state; a middle ground
In Terragni's Danteum, purgatory is designed as a "room" that is both (equally?) inside and outside--the transitional place. Supposedly, this is to have an uneasy effect, being neither inside or outside, but I think you can look at it positively as well, being both inside and outside--the center of the Villa Savoye is a perfect (positive) example.
Using this analogy re: the architectural promenade, when one is at this point in the path, then (I assume) one can experience/learn from/take advantage of both (heaven/hell inside/outside) realms.

1999.09.29 18:35
the formula in words
Hello Anand,
I has been a long time since we've corresponded. I hope things are going well with you. I imagine that we are both consummate searchers, and thus often restless.
I want to begin finalizing the "letter from/to India," and, to that extent, I will attempt to write out the promenade architecturale formula I believe Le Corbusier followed.
Both the Villa Savoye and the Palais des Congrès are essentially boxes raised on pilotis with a continuous ramp connecting three distinct levels. All three levels in each building and their relationship to the ongoing ascent of the ramp are part of the promenade formula. The lowest level, under the raised box, is symbolically the most mundane, and here Le Corbusier enacts a forest of pilotis within which the perimeter of the building is recessed--significantly, the entry point and the beginning point of ascent (ramp) are nearly synonymous. As one begins moving through the buildings, one is also ascending. The second level, the box, symbolizes the realm of limbo, the in-between, part inside and part outside. For Le Corbusier, this is realm where we live (Savoye) and where we gather (Congrès). Ultimately, the ramp in both buildings raises us to the garden on the roof in the realm of the sky. For Le Corbusier, this is architecture's goal, this is where architecture should deliver us.
What makes this formula even more interesting is that it is evident in other buildings, by architects other than Le Corbusier, and both after and before Le Corbusier's time. First I found the very same formula implemented in Stirling/Wilford's Wallraf-Richartz Museum, Cologne, 1977. Just as Le Corbusier elaborates and distorts the formula late in his life within the design of the Palais des Congrès, Stirling too further distorts the promenade route at Cologne. Then, after several years, I found the same promenade architecturale formula within Terragni's Danteum, and here the formula is even more clear, both symbolically and formally--first the forest, then the dark concentrated interior of the Inferno, then the inside-outside realm of Purgatory (limbo), and finally Heaven with its invisible columns and invisible roof. Again, an ongoing passage of ascent leading to an ultimate goal. From here I now see the promenade architecturale formula present in Schinkel's Altes Museum, Berlin, the Pantheon in Rome, and even along the via Triumphalis as delineated by Piranesi within the Ichnographia Campus Martius.



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